WKU-USF GRADES: QB Brandon Doughty makes up for early mistakes in win
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Hilltoppers’ 45-35 win against the Bulls in the Miami Beach Bowl:
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Quarterback Brandon Doughty (+3.7) had a really slow start to this game and his struggles heavily contributed to the fact that the Bulls jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Doughty’s first interception was one of the worst you will see this bowl season, as he tried to fire a pass through the chest of the linebacker. Despite his early struggles, Doughty came back and led WKU to victory with a much improved performance in the second half. As he settled down, he was able to take advantage of the coverage busts in the USF defense. Most of these happened downfield and led to Doughty totaling a completion percentage of 50 on passes attempted 20 or more yards downfield. He completed three of his six deep pass attempts for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Doughty received a huge boost from his running back, Anthony Wales (+4.7), who was the best player on the Western Kentucky offense Tuesday. Wales did some impressive things with the ball in his hands, forcing four missed tackles and scoring two touchdowns on only 14 carries. In addition, he averaged 7.5 yards per carry on his way to picking up 105 yards on the day. The fact that Wales averaged five yards after contact tells the story of how vital he was in the victory, despite shaky offensive line play.
There were a couple of strong performances on the Western Kentucky defense, but no player was more impressive than cornerback Prince Charles Iworah (+4.3). Iworah played 82 of the possible 88 snaps on defense, was in coverage on 42 plays and was targeted only four times. And even on those rare occasions, the USF offense did not find much joy throwing the ball towards him. Iworah allowed only one reception, which only went for eight yards. As a result, Iworah allowed an (NFL) passer rating of 39.6, which is practically the equivalent of throwing the ball into the turf. Although he missed one tackle, Iworah made up for it with his pass defense.
DT Omarius Bryant (+5.4)
RB Anthony Wales (+4.7)
CB Prince Charles Iworah (+4.3)
QB Brandon Doughty (+3.7)
C Max Halpin (+2.3)
Running back Marlon Mack (+2.7) finished the year on a high-note, earning his second-highest running grade this season. Although his overall grade was impacted by the fact that he dropped the only pass sent his way, he was very impressive on his 17 carries. Mack averaged 6.4 yards on these carries and forced three missed tackles. Similarly to Wales, Mack also added a lot to what the offensive line created for him, averaging 3.9 yards after contact. He was especially dangerous when he cut outside, averaging 8.2 yards outside the tackles compared to -2.3 yards inside the tackles.
Mack was not the only dangerous runner on his team. Quarterback Quinton Flowers (+2.6) ran for the same amount of yards (108) than Mack on 16 carries. Flowers forced an incredible six missed tackles and despite playing quarterback, was effective after contact as well, averaging 3.0 yards after being touched. While he had success on designed runs as well, Flowers was really dangerous on scrambles, totaling 7.7 yards on scrambling opportunities. Although he was not bad as a passer either, a couple ill-advised throws in the last minutes damaged his passing grade.
Linebacker Auggie Sanchez (-0.3) has been one of the more interesting players on the USF defense in 2015. Sanchez is the unquestionable leader of the unit and he also makes an incredible amount of tackles, but it’s hard to evaluate his performance without proper context. Although the linebacker collected a team-high 13 solo tackles against Western Kentucky, only three of those were defensive stops. In fact, Sanchez missed more tackles (4) than the number of defensive stops he made. This is not to say that Sanchez played poorly because he did not. However, the stat sheet can be deceiving when evaluating one’s performance on the defensive side of the ball.
TE Elkanah Dillon (+3.1)
RB Marlon Mack (+2.7)
QB Quinton Flowers (+2.6)
WR Rodney Adams (+2.4)
CB Khalid McGee (+1.3)